Early Signing Day: Lane Train full speed ahead as Rebels sign 12, turn attention to February
OXFORD, Miss. – Many college football coaches are spiking the ball in the end zone after Wednesday’s early signing period began. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin still has his eyes on the goals yet to be attained.
After all, many football coaches say the game is won in the third and fourth quarters.
This is like halftime of recruiting. Getting here just a week ago, we signed about half our class. We still have time to sign the rest. You don't win games after 1 half, so we'll evaluate the class as a whole after February. – @Lane_Kiffin
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) December 18, 2019
“This early signing period to me is kind of like halftime to me right now,” Kiffin said. “So, it’s kind of strange. The last time I was at this level we didn’t have this. And we didn’t sign this many guys at midyear at FAU.”
But Kiffin definitely likes the fruit of the midyear tree.
“We signed some good players today that we’re excited about, but we’ve only been here a week,” Kiffin said. “And like our staff, we said we were going to work fast, but we were going to work smart.”
Kiffin and the Rebels were smart Wednesday, enjoying a pretty good first two quarters.
Ole Miss signed 12 players on the first day of the early signing period, each ranking with either a three-star or four-star rating. Three players — offensive lineman Eli Acker, running back Kentrel Bullock and linebacker Austin Keys — each received both three and four-star ratings from various recruiting services.
The early signing class gives Kiffin a roster of new players with which to work. While everyone wants a whole roster of five-star players, Kiffin has had experience finding and developing talented kids who are not, and his time at FAU will serve him well in Oxford.
“We have to recruit great kids and kids that are going to stay, and every kid is not going to be a five-star,” Kiffin said at his introductory press conference less than a week ago. “We’ve got to develop, and that was another great thing about the experience (at FAU), you know we were developing no-star kids at Florida Atlantic at times.”
Kiffin went on to say his experience in Boca Raton will make the entire roster better at Ole Miss.
“I think that helps us a lot because we know they’re not going to be all five-stars, so developing the bottom of the roster is important so they can be productive and help us play.”
Kiffin has a very solid group of talented kids to develop. Among the three-star signees is quarterback Kade Renfro, receiver DaMarcus Thomas and offensive lineman Tobias Braun.
Defensively, the Rebels cashed in on some players in much-needed areas. Four linebackers sent Ole Miss signed letters-of-intent: Cedric Johnson, Jakivaun Brown and Daylen Gill will join Keys. DeSanto Rollins signed as a defensive lineman while Derek Bermudez and Lakevias Daniel will join the Landshark secondary.
In addition to signing the first 12 players, Kiffin also pulled off another recruiting coup: convincing some player to not sign Wednesday but wait for the signing day in February.
“I’ve been doing this a long time now, I would have handled that maybe differently ten years ago and worried about where our (recruiting) rankings were,” Kiffin said. “There are still a number of kids that we are on, some that have already said they’re coming that want to develop relationships, so they are going to push back to February. And some other kids that we are on that they were going places who have pushed back until February to give us a chance,” he added.
With the early signees delivered for the class of 2020, Kiffin can now place his focus on the second half of the recruiting game.
“Like I said we are at halftime now and those (recruiting) rankings today don’t matter anyway,” Kiffin reiterated. “So this will be a really big January.”
January, the next big recruiting period, now has another name – the second-half kickoff.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.